Circular economy champions: Guest post by Reuseabox
Most companies think recycling is the best way to be more environmentally conscious. The words reuse and recycling sometimes even get used interchangeably. But to reuse or recycle something involves two very different processes with different environmental impacts.
The Truth About Recycling
It’s a common misconception that recycling is good for the planet. Although recycling is important, the process itself has a huge environmental impact. It’s easy to pop that plastic bottle in the recycling bin and forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind. But according to Greenpeace, less than 10% of the plastic we produce is recycled with most of it ending up in landfill or being incinerated.
But what about the materials that do get recycled?
Cardboard is one of the most widely recycled materials. It’s also biodegradable and for this reason, many people consider it to be an eco-friendly packaging solution.
What many people don’t realise is that cardboard can’t be recycled infinitely. Each time it gets recycled, the fibres get stretched which affects the quality. To counteract this problem, most manufacturers add a percentage of new pulp into the mix. This means even more trees need to be felled to turn a cardboard box back into another cardboard box.
If this wasn’t bad enough the recycling process is incredibly water and energy intensive. Around 150,000 litres of water and 4,000 kw/h of energy is needed to recycle just 1 tonne of cardboard.
Reuse Before You Recycle
When you have eliminated unnecessary packaging, the solution is to reuse products and materials as much as possible before they’re recycled.
In industry, reusable crates, pallets, and containers are popular. There are also many businesses dedicated to reuse such as refill stores.
Did you know you can also Reuse Cardboard Boxes through Reuseabox? When you choose to reuse instead of buy new boxes, you can drastically reduce your environmental impact. Every tonne of reused cardboard saves around 5 trees, 148,000 litres of water, half a tonne of carbon and 4,000 kw/h of energy.
Consider the Circular Economy
The Circular Economy System Diagram (known as the butterfly diagram) shows the continuous flow of materials in a circular economy. In the technical cycle, products and materials are kept in use through processes such as reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling. The smaller inner loops show where more of the value of a product can be captured.
For example, it’s better to reuse a smartphone rather than take it apart and try to recycle its parts. When you recycle the parts, you lose the energy and time taken to produce the product. Looking at the butterfly diagram, it’s clear that recycling is one of the last things we should think about when looking at our waste management systems.
To find out more about cardboard reuse, contact Reuseabox.
What is an environmental management system (EMS)?
An environmental management system (EMS) is a systematic approach to managing a company’s environmental impacts and responsibilities. Developing and implementing an EMS can help small businesses improve their environmental performance, meet regulatory requirements, and gain a competitive advantage.
Here are some steps to help your small business prepare an EMS:
Conduct an environmental review to identify your company’s environmental impacts and obligations. This can include assessing your current operations, products, and services, as well as any relevant legal and regulatory requirements.
Develop an environmental policy that reflects your company’s commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. This policy should be clear, concise, and supported by senior management.
Identify key environmental impacts of your business and set specific objectives (and targets if appropriate) for reducing or mitigating these impacts.
Develop an action plan that outlines the steps your company will take to achieve its environmental objectives and targets. This plan should include specific roles and responsibilities, deadlines, and performance indicators.
Implement the action plan and monitor your progress towards meeting your environmental objectives and targets. This may involve training employees, implementing new processes and procedures, and using tools and technologies to track and measure your environmental performance.
Regularly review and update your EMS to ensure it remains effective and relevant to your business. This may involve conducting periodic audits, consulting with stakeholders, and incorporating new information and requirements.
By developing and implementing an EMS, small businesses can demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility and improve their environmental performance. This can help build trust and credibility with customers, employees, and regulators, and can ultimately lead to a more sustainable and profitable business. It can also help you meet procurement or funding requirements and the environmental requirements of B Corp.
An EMS can be externally certified to ensure it is robust and to maximise the marketing benefits. ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems but Green Small Business provides an SME-specific alternative, which is more appropriate, manageable and affordable than ISO 14001.
We offer two approaches to developing an environmental management system:
We would love to hear from you. If you have any questions about Green Small Business or about managing the environmental impacts of your business, book a call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.
SME guide to preparing a Carbon Reduction Plan – PPN 06/21
Many businesses bidding for public sector work have been faced with the requirement to publish a Carbon Reduction Plan. The requirements stem from a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) published by the Cabinet Office in June 2021 (hence the 06/21). Although intended to impact those businesses bidding for ‘major government contracts’, the fact that the requirements extend to framework agreements and dynamic purchasing systems means that many SMEs have had to meet the requirements.
This post is intended as a simple, practical, plain-English guide to producing a Carbon Reduction Plan in the UK, with links to all of the resources you will need. There is no reason to feel daunted. It is far easier to meet the requirements than it might at first seem.
If you do feel daunted though or you simply don’t have time, we can prepare a Carbon Reduction Plan for you from only £1,077 + VAT. The fee will be lower if you have already assessed your carbon footprint and/or if you already have an Environmental Management System (EMS).
If you’re keen to have a go, a template for a Carbon Reduction Plan was published alongside the PPN. Download the Carbon Reduction Template here. Note that you do not have to use the format of the template. You can use your own document templates and branding, providing that you include all of the relevant sections and meet the content requirements. Guidance is published here and there is a helpful FAQ document.
Having downloaded the template, you will notice that there are six sections:
We provide a guide to completing each of these sections in turn below. But first, one over-arching point:
The requirement for a Carbon Reduction Plan is a pass/fail requirement. No comparisons will be made with the plans of other businesses and no extra scores can be achieved by being extra-ambitious or by stating particularly grand plans.
We’re all for businesses being ambitious in reducing their carbon footprints but too many are lapsing into dubious claims and target-setting. There is no advantage to be gained from doing so under the PPN.
Commitment to achieving Net Zero
This is a simple statement of your commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 in the UK. This means that you commit to reducing your emissions as far as possible, before then offsetting the ‘unavoidable’ emissions that remain. To understand a little more about what this means, see our step-by-step guide to carbon footprinting.
Key points to note:
If you already have a net zero target date which is earlier than 2050, use that date, but otherwise there is no advantage to selecting an earlier date. If you have not considered these issues before, it would be better to use 2050 as a target date. You can always bring that forward when you have a clearer idea of your carbon footprint and how you might reduce it as you move towards net zero.
No carbon offsetting is required now. The concept of net zero involves using carbon offsetting only when you have reduced your emissions as far as possible.
Your net zero target does not have to be compliant with any external standards or verification schemes such as the Science-Based Targets Initiative.
Baseline Emissions Footprint
If you have previously calculated your carbon footprint, you may already have baseline data to enter here. If not, you will need to calculate your carbon footprint so that you can include the data in your Carbon Reduction Plan. See our step-by-step guide or let us do the work for you with our Carbon Footprinting Package.
Key points to note:
Only a limited set of Scope 3 emissions categories needs to be included in your Carbon Reduction Plan – Upstream transportation & distribution; waste generated in operations; business travel; employee commuting; downstream transportation & distribution.
If yours is a professional UK services business, the emissions from some of these categories will be zero. Zero should be recorded against such categories, with a short explanation. See example below.
Upstream and downstream transportation & distribution emissions will be zero unless you are selling (and shipping) physical products.
Based on advice received at a recent webinar by the Crown Commercial Service, waste emissions can also be recorded as zero if you are an office-based business, since emissions from waste will be negligible.
Estimating emissions from employee commuting can be tricky and in medium-sized businesses may be best approached using a staff survey. We provide a template survey as part of a carbon footprinting package but essentially you will need to gather commuting distance, frequency and usual mode of transport. Average UK commuting distances and transport mode split can be used as a short-term gap-filler if needed. This data is available from the Office for National Statistics.
If you have a significant amount of homeworking, emissions can be included under category 7 – ‘Employee teleworking’ is a sub-category of employee commuting. The Homeworking Emissions Whitepaper provides a methodology for calculating emissions, or you can just estimate the number of days worked from home across your business and convert that to carbon emissions using the emissions factor for homeworking newly included in the Government’s emissions factors for company reporting in 2022.
Current Emissions Reporting
If this is all new to you, your current emissions reporting will be the same as your baseline emissions. If that’s the case, just copy and past the table from the previous section and add an introductory sentence explaining that your current reporting year is your baseline year.
Key point to note:
Your current emissions data is required to be updated every 12 months. You will need to update it within 6 months of your reporting period ending. So, if your reporting period ends at the end of March, you will need to update your Carbon Reduction Plan by the end of September each year.
Emissions Reduction Targets
You may have already set emissions reduction targets that can be stated in this section of your Carbon Reduction Plan. If not, you could simply restate your commitment to achieving net zero by 2050. Note that your Carbon Reduction Plan will not be compliant with PPN 06/21 without this commitment.
You may also want to consider a shorter-term target, as suggested in the template, although this is not a formal requirement.
Key points to note:
There is no consequence under the PPN for not meeting your stated targets. Nevertheless, it may be a reputational risk so it is advisable to set targets when you have a clear idea of the emissions reduction that are possible for you. More on this below.
According to guidance provided at a recent Crown Commercial Service webinar, the targets stated here must be absolute emissions reduction target, i.e. they cannot take account of planned or projected business growth. Even more reason for caution to be applied here!
Should you be confident in setting short term targets, many businesses are aligning with the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, which suggests the need for 50% carbon emissions reductions by 2030. The Science-Based Targets Initiative indicates the need for target reductions in the region of 4-5% per year.
Adding a graph (as suggested in the template) is optional and not a requirement!
Carbon Reduction Projects
This is an opportunity for you to state any action that you are taking or that you have planned that will lead to reductions in your carbon emissions.
If you have an environmental management system, you may want to summarise the action outlined within that that will lead to emissions reductions.
If you have never considered these issues, review your carbon footprint and what it tells you about where emissions come from in your business. Then think about actions you can take to address these. Should you need help, our Environmental Management System package includes action planning for your business.
Remember, there are no extra points for making bold claims here so be honest about what you can do.
Declaration and Sign Off
You’ll need to have your Carbon Reduction Plan signed off by a representative of your board of directors or equivalent.
Book a call or purchase
We would love to hear from you. If you have any questions about Green Small Business or about producing a Carbon Reduction Plan for your business, book a free call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.
As a business owner it can be really difficult to know where to start when it comes to understanding and improving your impact. There are tons of different frameworks out there and there’s more than enough sustainability jargon, even the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can initially feel overwhelming!
That being said, the SDGs are a brilliant place to start the conversation as they cover a broad range of environmental, social and economic impacts. They’re also globally recognised and therefore translate well when communicating with your current and potential stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers and investors.
To help you get ‘off the blocks’ Louisa Burman Ltd offer an SDG Impact Mapping exercise which enables business owners to understand which SDGs are most relevant to them and why they’re relevant. This is a valuable exercise for a number of reasons:
It’s really visual and clear so it can give focus to early internal discussions about your impact – how you’re generating impact and how you can effectively grow your impact.
It can act as a stepping stone to more complex frameworks, giving you a foundation understanding of how your business generates impact so if you’re keen to increase your impact (for instance to reach the 80 point BCorp threshold) you’ll be able to play to your strengths and build on what you’re already doing.
The SDGs translate well into external impact reports as they are so well recognised, if you’re considering implementing impact reporting, knowing your SDGs and being able to identify your Primary SDG will help you to focus your reporting and think more about the data you need to be capturing.
SDG Impact Mapping isn’t time intensive or expensive compared to other frameworks. The initial exercise will only take about 5 hours of your time: an introduction session, a workshop to finetune the SDGs we’ve shortlisted for your business and a final session presenting the SDGs relevant to your business.
Once you’ve completed this exercise you might decide that, given your current priorities and resources, you’re comfortable with your increased understanding and being able to talk more confidently about the impacts your business creates (both positive and negative). If it best suits your business at the moment, you can treat this as a one off exercise. At the end of the SDG Impact Mapping process you’ll be given:
A process map that shows which SDGs are relevant at each stage of your process and highlights your priority SDG(s).
A guidance document which gives you more details about the specific SDGs relevant to your business and examples of the type of business activities which support these SDGs.
However once you have this understanding, if you are keen to keep up the momentum, you’ll be in the perfect position to start focusing your efforts on improving your impact. Your next steps could include:
Having regular internal meetings to discuss the current impact you’re generating and how you want to increase this.
Establishing and embedding some key metrics to help you measure and track your impact improvements.
Implementing regular internal, or both internal and external, reporting to engage your key stakeholders (such as employees, customers and suppliers) and potentially include them in conversation that inform how you develop your impact strategy.
SDG Mapping is a valuable tool which complements the services offered by Green Small Business. Because we truly believe in the value of SDG Impact Mapping to support micro businesses, we offer fixed prices for this service for micro and small businesses (<£10m turnover and <50 employees).
These prices can be found on our website and we’re delighted to offer a 10% discount to all Green Small Business customers. Just drop us an email to let us know that you’ve been working with Green Small Business and would like to redeem your discount: [email protected]
South Lakeland businesses get support to go green
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has teamed up with Green Small Business to offer a heavily subsidised deal for firms to get environmental advice and certification.
A high-level but systematic review of the environmental impacts of the business (via video-call or phone)
A draft environmental action plan and policy for the business, for you to adjust as necessary
12 months Green Small Business certification
The decisions of customers and employees are increasingly informed by environmental concerns so getting environmental certification is a smart business move. It can also be a requirement for grant applications, tenders and supply contracts.
The Green Small Business approach is designed specifically for small businesses and organisations. Certification provides confirmation for customers and potential customers that a business is aware of its environmental impacts and that they are being actively managed. Renewing certification costs £199 every year, which is a fraction of the cost of other schemes designed with bigger businesses in mind.
The benefits to a small business of becoming Green Small Business certified include:
Providing evidence of environmentally-friendly practices which can help secure contracts with government, public or private sector bodies.
Saving money by understanding and managing how you use energy and water, where your raw materials come from and how you dispose of waste.
Enhancing reputation by demonstrating commitment to the environment to clients, customers and potential customers.
Improving your environmental performance by reducing resource use, energy use and waste.
We work with bigger businesses too and they are also eligible for SLDC funding support. If you are a medium-sized or large business (more than 49 staff), book a call to discuss your requirements.
What others have said
Here’s some feedback from South Lakeland business owners who have already benefited from this support:
Green Small Business has helped us to understand how to get started and progress on our sustainability journey. Taking the carbon consumption out of our business seems a huge and daunting task and now we have a plan I feel much more confident in making a real difference.
Serena von der Heyde, Victorian House Hotel, Grasmere
Tim managed to pull together what would have taken us up to a year to do as a team. Tim has given us the focus, structure and coordination that we needed to understand what net-zero is, how we are going to get there, and what our plan is. We hope to continue to work with him into the future.”
Dan Visser, Langdale Estate
Free staff training on environment & carbon
In conjunction with Lancaster & Morecambe College, Green Small Business is now offering two training courses covering environmental and carbon management. Both courses lead to a nationally accredited qualification and thanks to funding from the DfE Skills Accelerator Fund, they are currently free to employees from businesses across North West England!
We can deliver the training in your workplace for free if you have 6 or more people and a suitable meeting space. Email [email protected] if you are interested.
Otherwise, you can attend the training at the Employer’s Hub at Lancaster & Morecambe College – dates below.
2-day course – making business sense of environmental management, carbon footprinting & net zero
22 & 23 June | 20 & 21 July | 14 & 21 Oct | 10 & 11 Jan 23 | 2 & 3 Feb 23 | 14 & 15 Mar 23
This 2-day course will be of particular interest to supervisors, managers and business owners from a wide range of industries. Through the course you will:
appreciate the business benefits of taking account of environmental impacts
learn how to scope the environmental impacts of your business
understand how to better manage these impacts
be introduced to the different frameworks and certifications available
understand the principles behind carbon footprinting and be able to apply them
understand how to make sense of carbon offsetting and develop a robust net zero strategy for your business
Lunch & refreshments are also included free of charge.
The Green Small Business process really helped me concentrate my mind on the essentials of documenting all the thoughts and processes that we currently do or would like to do in three clear documents.
It made the whole thing much more straightforward than the big company options. It’s also good to have a third party look at what we do and give feedback and advice. Money well spent and look forward to continuing our association.”
Ventorq are as clear an example as you will find of the way in which the world of business is changing. In two ways:
Firstly, in terms of what they do. As an Ecommerce consultancy, they help their clients, from brewers to fashion houses, to thrive in the world of online business. They provide support and direction with establishing or improving an ecommerce presence, and how many businesses can thrive without that now?
Secondly, in terms of how they do it. Ventorq see environmental sustainability as a business imperative. They are committed to reducing their environmental impact and continually improving environmental performance as an integral part of their business strategy and operating methods. The Green Small Business process provided them with a structured approach to achieving these goals and a means of clearly differentiating their offer. Ventorq founder Richard Hatfield recognised the benefits:
“Primarily, the Green Small Business process provides a clear plan of action to improve the sustainability of the business. Having a live action plan means that you can continue to consider and improve on your efforts. The discussion with Tim raised issues I’d not thought of before and introduced resources that would have taken me time to find. Hopefully the certification will encourage other businesses and clients to consider their environmental impacts further and position Ventorq as a trustworthy and responsible business that doesn’t place profit above ethics.”
Green Certification for Constructor
An increasing number of construction companies are getting Green Small Business certification, the latest of which is Rubix Construction – a residential construction company with a growing reputation for achieving stunning home transformations across South London.
As a member of the Considerate Constructors Scheme they are required, among other things, to:
identify, manage and promote environmental issues
seek sustainable solutions, minimise waste, the carbon footprint and resources
Green Small Business certification proved to be the ideal route to demonstrate their commitment to achieving these goals, providing them with a systematic and practical framework for managing their environmental impacts.
“Green Small Business has given us a clear and achievable plan on how to be more ‘green’. It is making us think more carefully about how we do things, and has given us a framework on how to make improvements. This will not only benefit the environment but also hopefully make the business more efficient and cost effective.”